DeLaying the inevitable?

Yet another round of ethics allegations connected to the majority leader. Will they stick?

Published September 9, 2005 5:30PM (EDT)

Salon editorial fellow J.J. Helland turns the bright light of justice on Rep. Tom DeLay.

Don't worry, Tom. War Room hasn't forgot about you. Yesterday a grand jury in Texas leveled five felony indictments against the political action committee formed by the House majority leader and a Texas business group in connection with campaign contributions in 2002.

According to Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, Texans for a Republican Majority -- the PAC formed by Delay -- and the Texas Association of Business are accused of misusing "corporate money to influence Texas elections in 2002" and "working together to circumvent the election code and funnel corporate money into campaigns."

The now-defunct Texans for a Republican Majority is charged with illegally accepting a $100,000 political contribution from a group called the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care and a $20,000 contribution from AT&T Corp. The Texas Association of Business, on the other hand, was indicted on charges of "unlawful political advertising, unlawful contributions to a political committee and unlawful expenditures such as those to a graphics company and political candidates."

Although DeLay himself has not been charged with anything, and although his spokesman, Kevin Madden, insists that the majority leader wasn't involved in the day-to-day operations of the PAC, Delay doesn't exactly have an unblemished record to point to in his defense. Salon reported that just last July, under some pretty dubious conditions, DeLay helped funnel millions of dollars in pork to his energy industry buddies back home.

But perhaps more important, the latest round of indictments calls into question the circumstances surrounding the historic Republican takeover of the Texas House back in 2002. With corporate money flowing into GOP coffers through sources such as DeLay's PAC, Texas Republicans were able to wrest control of the House from Democrats. They later used their majority status to muscle through a controversial redistricting plan that effectively increased the number of Republican seats in the Texas 2004 congressional delegation.

With this indictment adding to his reputation for shady ethics, the question is whether DeLay will forever remain immune to the charges against him. Michael Brown has had his accountability moment. When will DeLay have his?

By J.J. Helland

J.J. Helland is Salon's editorial fellow in New York.

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